July 30, 2008

KM: The First 90 Days

NOTE: Not 10 minutes after publishing this post I hopped over to Green Chameleon to get my weekly 'fix' and sure enough there was a post (from Monday) on Cory Bank's First 180 Days. Now that's synchronicity! Take a moment to check out Cory's 'Corz and Effect' blog. (8/31/08)

Yesterday, I was working on a blog post for another topic, thinking about the process of selling KM, when it came to me (through a series of incidental thoughts) how the thing that would have been most helpful to me with my earlier positions in KM would have been a plan for my first 90 days on the job.

Hindsight is 20/20, unless the alcohol blurs the details or you just don't want to remember, but I do recall, several times, starting out and wishing that I'd had more direction...more strategic objectives...to kick-off my KM efforts (and make me look like less of a bumbling idiot).

In one position, I remember receiving my 90-day evaluation and, despite having completed all of the documented goals that had been set, being taken to task for not acheiving a bunch of unspoken expectations (both of me and KM). Following this experience, I came to realize...okay, immediately following this experience I was looking crazy as hell, but several months down the road what I came to realize was the importance of truly owning a project - being thorough and ambitious in setting goals beyond, even, what might be formally agreed upon; reading between the lines and intuiting as much information as you can from what isn't said; and, most importantly, establishing yourself as the expert.

Nowadays, whenever I begin a KM project, I go in with two things (three, if you count my quirky personality): a KM roadmap, which I pass out like candy to everyone in the organization with even a passing interest, and my 90-Day Plan Checklist, which I keep taped (and hidden) inside the cover of my little notebook/planner. Regardless of what goals I may set with the person or people to which I report (these tend to be a bit on the conservative side), my checklist is on and poppin' and focused on the following goals:

Goals For The First 90 Days
  • Market KM - Create a 'buzz' around the organization and build some interest, excitement...or both!
  • Demonstrate your value to the organization - Reaffirm the organization's investment in and commitment to you!
  • Develop a strategy - One that spells out both short-term and long-term KM goals!
  • Produce a deliverable - At least one, but the more the better!
90-Day Checklist

1. Complete your Knowledge Audit
It's basic business sense that every good project begins with a good evaluation of the situation. A comprehensive knowledge audit provides all of the information needed for creating a KM strategy. Components of the audit include:
  • Auditing existing knowledge assets, learning systems, organizational practices and behaviors
  • Identifying and evaluating organizational needs and challenges
  • Mapping knowledge flows (how information is shared across the organization)
  • Understanding and setting expectations of KM
  • Defining and documenting the scope and vision of/for KM
  • Aligning KM strategy with business strategy; and,
  • Achieving buy-in of the KM vision/scope
2. Know the political landscape and confirm at least 3-5 allies
Understanding the environment and the culture in which you are working is critical! There are so many 'X-Factors' that can jack up your KM efforts and a lot of them have to do with political forces that existed long before you came on board. Add to that any lingering change fatigue and the geneal uneasiness of either a new or resurrected strategy that might be perceived as a distraction from getting work done or a stab at someone's power base and you've got a potential hot potato on your hands.

By confirming at least 3-5 allies - people who understand and believe in what you're doing - you're beginning the process of building your own power base. And trust me, eventually you're gonna need it!

3. Convert 1 Skeptic
It's extremely rare not to have any naysayers. These are people who either don't believe in the utility or credibility of KM or who simply don't think you're up to the task. When faced with these folks resist the urge to tune them out. There's no better marketing tactic than turning your haters into supporters (even if it's begruding support). Just remember not to be to ambitious on this point. The deeper the cynicism, the more time involved in conversion; save your biggest critic for the next 90 days!

4. Complete your strategy blueprint
I tend to take a consultative approach to the interview process, so if and when I get a job it's usually based on the high-level strategy overview that I present to prospective employers (the result of early interviews and some deft research into the organization, its industry, and competitors). Because of this, I always have the shell of a strategy just waiting for the results of the knowledge audit. However, even if you're starting from scratch, after 90-Days (depending on the size of the organization) you should be ready to present a detailed strategy blueprint for review. You KM strategy blueprint should:
  • Document and outline the KM/Change strategy
  • Set goals and establish pre-implementation ROI metrics (e.g., Potential for improved performance, Estimated implementation costs, Worth analysis - verifies the worth of implementing KM/Change initiatives by comparing costs against potential outcomes)
  • Define critical success factors and key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Identify, prioritize, and estimate functional requirements
  • Document and outline branding strategy (Comprehensive marketing and training plans to support deployment)
  • Design the KM team
  • Identify the tools and resources needed to implement strategy
  • Determine “build (internal) vs. buy (outsource)” with regards to KM applications/tools
  • Evaluate availability and efficacy of both internal and external resources/tools
5. Market KM
If you ask me what I think are the three keys to a successful KM strategy I'll tell you this: (1) a knowledgeable, assertive, dedicated KM professional, (2) a committed, supportive, and invested organizational leadership, and (3) a rock-solid marketing plan.

KM has to be managed like a product - one that know one really understands and which folks are prematurely led to believe they won't like. Think about a movie that you are dead-set against going to see (maybe the reviews were bad, maybe the previews weren't flattering or appealing), but then someone drags you to see it and, surprise, you love it! That's exactly what you're dealing with and, with a kick-ass marketing plan and a smokin' KM strategy, hopefully the end results will be the same. (Note: All of the marketing in the world can't fix a bad strategy. Your marketing efforst will be for naught if, as author, entrepreneur and consulting guru Rob Ryan says, "the dogs will not eat the dog food.")

How do you market KM?
  • Within your first week have HR or your boss email an announcement on your appointment with a brief description of your duties and background
  • Hold one KM brown bag each month
  • Claim some "real estate" on the corporate intranet site for KM messages and announcements
  • Host a company 'networking' mixer for employees
  • Establish and publish a weekly or bi-weekly e-newsletter highlighting current organizational activity (folks love to talk about themselves even if you have to spend time alternating between being Sherlock Holmes and Lois Lane)
  • Establish and publish regular KM 'Impact' Reports which, rather than focusing on organizational activity, provide a brief summary of the economic (impact on the bottom line) and social (influence on the culture) results of KM efforts.
6. Solve a couple of minor problems and pluck some low-hanging fruit!
Lately, I've been hooked on the Facebook application, Mob Wars, the goal of which is to rise up the criminal ranks from petty criminal to head of a mafia empire (none of that Sonny Corinthos bubble-gum mafia for me!) Surprisingly, I'm addicted. The quickest way to make money, build experience, and move up is to complete relatively minor 'jobs' (muggings, burglary, liquor store robberies...that kind of stuff). Tackling 'low-hanging fruit' in your first 90-days is pretty much the same deal. Problems are identified easily during routine "getting to know you" conversations with folks. Even if these problems aren't exactly KM-centric, your ability to satisfy their need is what will win them over and ingratiate you. This is what builds a power base.

And sure, you want to avoid being some kind of corporate 'cleaner' that everyone runs to for all of their miscellaneous needs, but that's a problem for the next 90 days (or the 90 after that), in the first 90 days your goal is simply to be recognized as a problem-solver who adds value to the organization.

Hope this helps someone to avoid some of the mistakes I made starting out.



Nimmy said...

Like this post, CY! :) I agree with pretty much most of what you suggest! Keep it going!

Christian Young said...

Thanks Nimmy! And I totally agree with your thoughts about managing KM like a product, but I do like the analogy as a way of brainstorming ideas for promoting KM within an organization. Just as long as folks don't take my comparison literally...that would suck :-)

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